Lavender Celebration honors 2021 graduates

Award-winning Broadway and film producer Jayne Baron Sherman spoke during Thursday's Lavender Celebration.
By Ashley A. Williams

Award-winning Broadway and film producer Jayne Baron Sherman spoke during Thursday's Lavender Celebration.

Lavender Celebration honors 2021 graduates

By Ashley A. Williams
The seventh annual event recognized LGBTQIA+ students virtually with performances, awards, and a keynote speech from award-winning Broadway and film producer Jayne Baron Sherman.

When Jayne Baron Sherman graduated from the University of Miami nearly 55 years ago, a celebration to recognize graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally (LGBTQIA+) students, was “beyond imagination,” she said.

On Thursday, Sherman, an award-winning Broadway and film producer, was invited by the University’s LGBTQ Student Center as this year’s keynote speaker of the seventh annual Lavender Celebration, which honors students and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ campus community. The virtual ceremony acknowledged the accomplishments of those who are graduating.

“Opportunities here and many places have opened up, and there are more options as you start your post school life,” said Sherman. Staying connected to places like the University, the LGBTQ [Student] Center, and to people who can welcome and guide on our path eliminates the need to face those challenges alone.”

Prior to the celebration, Gisela Vega, LGBTQ Student Center director, assistant director Vanessa Kania, and the center staff assembled packages that were mailed or picked up by each graduating student. The boxes included rainbow-colored cords, a certificate, a lavender journal, a mask, a personalized message from the center staff and additional swag from Development and Alumni Relations.

Behind the scenes, a full committee made up of faculty and staff members, students, and alumni worked hard to ensure participants felt proud of the challenges they each overcame throughout their personal and academic journeys to reach where they are today.

“Graduates, all have been very resilient and successful as you face so many obstacles that were placed along your journey,” said Vega. “This year the COVID-19 pandemic transformed your lives and changed your traditional University of Miami experience forever.”


Special Report: 2021 Commencement

Vega and others, including Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs; Renee Dickens Callan, executive director of student life; and Meredith Camel, executive director of communications, each shared words of encouragement and advice. Participants were also treated to online performances by Biscaydence, the University’s co-ed a capella group, and the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus.

As part of the ceremony, awards were presented to students and faculty and staff members who have made significant contributions to the University. Friends and family who wished to recognize the graduates were able to nominate them prior to the event. Graduating seniors Caleb Sun and Suzanne Stremler were each honored with the Danny Gomez Legacy Award, which honors undergraduate students who made extraordinary contributions to the LGBTQIA+ community on and off campus. School of Law student Jordan Rhodes was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. The departments of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Housing and Residential Life were each presented with the Lavender Community Partner Award. 

The celebration is an accompaniment to the University’s formal commencement ceremonies, which will take place at the Hard Rock Stadium from May 12 to 14.

“Despite the year that you’ve had—you’re here. You’ve made it. You’ve been extremely successful. You’ve helped us to create a more inclusive community, and you’re leaving your mark among those that you’ve encountered here at the U,” Vega said as she closed the ceremony.